Long-form contentWhich is better, short snappy content marketing or in-depth long-form pieces? If you’re asking yourself this question, you need to take a couple of steps back. Content marketing of any length has advantages and disadvantages; for example, long pieces run the risk of boring readers while short ones can seem shallow or undeveloped.

The solution is to focus carefully on making your content as engaging and relevant as possible, as well as thinking hard about the people you are trying to reach and the way they will access your content.

What is long-form content?

On average, blog posts are short and sweet: around 300 words. Long-form content tends to be at least 1,000 words long. At this length, you need to really know your stuff because readers can spot waffle from a mile away.

Longer articles need a robust structure, interesting information in the form of case studies or statistics, plus a solid argument. Readers are going to spend around ten minutes reading your piece. If you waste their time with unsupported observations or a weak argument, they will certainly judge you for it. You need to be able to provide content that educates and informs whereas with a shorter piece, you can often simply entertain or provide a welcome distraction.

How can you ensure your long-form content is engaging?

There are a number of approaches which can ensure your long-form articles hit the spot. However you write, you need to be sure that you are clear, consistent and break up the text with images or graphics supporting your article. On top of this, you will need a strategy for gaining and holding the reader’s interest.

One of the most popular ways of doing this is to tell a compelling story. It’s human nature to enjoy a good narrative, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Talk about a problem faced by your company or an (anonymised) client; describe the steps taken to overcome this and the outcome. It helps if you start by giving a few teasers about how the end of the story might buck the reader’s expectations.

You might also want to write an article that challenges the reader’s perceptions about a topic. As a business, you will have insights that your customers do not have. Presented in the right way, these can make for fascinating reading.

For example, you might be a software company with insight into how many client companies fail to put adequate protections against cyber-attacks into place. You could contrast the modest cost of implementing a risk management strategy against the far greater cost of experiencing an attack, with all the associated disruption and loss of reputation.

Measure your results

There’s no way to know what form of content will please your target audience most without careful testing and experimentation. This is why it is important to track your results: shares, likes and retweets will all give you an indication of how well your content is being received.

It is also important to track conversions from marketing activity. Some content might inform or please certain audiences, but are they the ones who will actually buy what you are selling? If your long-form articles are generating buzz but no sales, it might be worth considering whether they can be tweaked with different content or calls to action in order to provide a better return for your time.

Is your company still offering customers a snack when they want something more substantial?

Ben Hollom

September 29, 2016